Why you really should visit Paris’ WWII French Resistance museum

As Paris marks 78 years since the liberation of the city, check out this museum which tells the fascinating stories of the incredibly brave men and women who risked their lives to join the Resistance.

Why you really should visit Paris' WWII French Resistance museum
General Leclerc during the liberation of Paris. Photo: AFP

What’s the story behind the museum?

Previously situated in a little-known space beside the Gare Montparnasse, the Musée de la Libération de Paris – Musée du Général Leclerc – Musée Jean Moulin reopened in 2019 at the place Denfert-Rochereau in central Paris – above the network of underground tunnels used by the Resistance during the battle for the Liberation of Paris.

The museum’s particularly long name pays homage to General Leclerc and Jean Moulin, two key leaders of French resistance forces whose stories are prominently featured in the museum.

READ ALSO ‘I was just 19 when I cycled up to the German officer and put two bullets in his head’

French resistance leader Jean Moulin. Photo: AFP

This revamped space was the result of the combined efforts of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and the wife of Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, the leader of the Paris Resistance. During the war Cécile Rol-Tanguy worked tirelessly alongside her husband in the underground bunker that secretly served as a command post. 

What are the exhibitions about?

The chronological permanent exhibition guides the visitor through the pre-war period, the occupation and the liberation of Paris through the figures of Jean Moulin – who led Resistance efforts in France until his capture by the Germans and death in 1943 – and General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, who led the Free French forces overseas during the war, before taking part in the Liberation of Paris.

More than 300 artefacts from the period are on show, in addition to original documents, photographs, archived videos and testimonies about the resistance.

However, the museum’s most gripping historical attraction lies underground, 100 steps below to be precise.

It is sited in the bunker of Col Rol-Tanguy, the military command post where the colonel, his wife, and his staff hid out to orchestrate the liberation of Paris.

READ ALSO 10 things you might not know about the liberation of Paris 

Part of the museum is situated in the secret hideout of Paris resistance leader Henri Rol-Tanguy. Photo: AFP

What else is there?

The museum also has a series of temporary exhibitions, the current one concerns the work of female war photographers – including Lee Miller and Gerda Taro – and runs until December 2022.

Practical info

The Musée de la Libération de Paris-Musée du Général Leclerc-Musée Jean Moulin is on Place Denfert-Rochereau, 4 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy 75014 Paris.

Tickets can be booked in advance online or purchased on the door. The permanent collection is free, but visits to the underground bunker or the temporary exhibits are not. The underground bunker can only be accessed by stairs, so is not suitable for people with mobility issues.  

For more details, call 01 40 64 39 44 or visit the museum’s website.

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Asterix: Five things to know about France’s favourite character

Asterix is hitting the box offices again, so to celebrate here's a look at France's most treasured hero.

Asterix: Five things to know about France's favourite character

If you have walked past a bus stop anywhere in France in recent weeks, then you have likely run into film posters advertising Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom.

Starring high-profile French actors Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel, France’s film industry is hoping that this film, capitalising on France’s nostalgic relationship with the comic series “Asterix” will bring box office success.

The Asterix comic book series was first published in 1959, and tells the story of a small Gallic village on the coast of France that is attempting to defend itself from invaders, namely the Romans. Asterix, the hero of the series, manages to always save the day, helping his fellow Gauls keep the conquerors at bay.

As the beloved Gaulish hero makes his way back onto the big screen, here are five things you should know about France’s cherished series:

Asterix is seen as the ‘every day’ Frenchman

“Asterix brings together all of the identity-based clichés that form the basis of French culture”, Nicolas Rouvière, researcher at the University of Grenoble-Alps and expert in French comics, told AFP in an interview in 2015.

READ MORE: Bande dessinée: Why do the French love comic books so much?

The expert wrote in his 2014 book “Obelix Complex” that “the French like to look at themselves in this mirror [of the Asterix series], which reflects their qualities and shortcomings in a caricatured and complacent way”.

Oftentimes, the French will invoke Asterix – the man who protected France from the Roman invaders – when expressing their resistance toward something, whether that is imported, American fast food or an unpopular government reform.

The front page of French leftwing newspaper Libération shows President Emmanuel Macron as a Roman while Asterix and his team are the French people protesting against pension reform.

The figure of ‘a Gaul’ is a popular mascot for French sports teams, and you’ll even see people dressed up as Asterix on demos. 

A man dressed as Asterix the Gaul with a placard reading “Gaul, Borne breaks our balls” during a protest over the government’s proposed pension reform, in Paris on January 31, 2023. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

Asterix is the second best-selling comic series

The series has had great success in France since it was first launched in 1959, originally as Astérix le Gaulois. It has also been popular across much of Europe, as the series often traffics in tongue-in-cheek stereotypes of other European nations – for example, caricaturing the English as fans of lukewarm beer and tasteless foods.

Over the years, Asterix has been translated into more than 100 languages, with at least 375 million copies sold worldwide.

It remains the second best-selling comic series in the world, after the popular manga “One Piece”.

There is an Asterix theme park 

The French love Asterix so much that they created a theme park, located just 22 miles north of Paris, in the comic series’ honour in 1989.

The park receives up to two million visitors a year, making it the second most visited theme park in France, after Disneyland Paris. With over 40 attractions and six themed sections, inspired by the comic books, the park brings both young and old visitors each year. 

READ MORE: Six French ‘bandes dessinées’ to start with

The first French satellite was named after Asterix

As Asterix comes from the Greek word for ‘little star’, the French though it would be apt to name their first satellite, launched in 1965 after the Gaulish warrior.

As of 2023, the satellite was still orbiting the earth and will likely continue to do so for centuries to come.

Asterix’ co-authors were from immigrant backgrounds

Here’s become the ‘ultimate Frenchman’, but both creators of the Asterix series were second-generation French nationals, born in France in the 1920s to immigrant parents.

René Goscinny created the Asterix comic series alongside illustrator Albert Uderzo. Goscinny’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland. Born in Paris, René’s family moved to Argentina when he was young and he was raised there for the majority of his childhood. As for Albert Uderzo, his parents were Italian immigrants who settled in the Paris region.

Goscinny unexpectedly died at the age of 51, while writing Asterix in Belgium. From then on, Uderzo took over both writing and illustrating the series on his own, marking Goscinny’s death in the comic by illustrating dark skies for the remainder of the book.

In 1985, Uderzo received one of the highest distinctions in France – the Legion of Honour. Uderzo retired in 2011, but briefly came out of retirement in 2015 to commemorate the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were murdered in a terror attack by drawing two Asterix pictures honouring their memories.